For those seeking fashionable and functional gear for all things mountain living, look no further than the Highland Hiker in Cashiers and Highlands, NC. Founded in 1982 by David and Carol Wilkes, the original Happy Hiker was a small hiking shop offering everything the rugged mountain man or woman needed to venture out into the great outdoors of Highlands hiking and camping. Walking sticks, hiking boots and fishing gear were just a sampling of offerings in the original Highlands, NC, store.

Flash forward almost a decade and the Highland Hiker was re-born and relocated to the highly coveted Main Street location in Highlands. This move was significant, not only because of the increased visibility on Main Street, but also because of the new building, an original Joe Webb log cabin.

Joe Webb Log Cabins in Highlands, North Carolina, and Highland Hiker

In the late 1800s, the town of Highlands, North Carolina, was founded. Nestled on a plateau at the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina, this destination was—and still is —a popular retreat for many affluent families seeking refuge from high temperatures during the summer months. Within a few decades, residential construction increased. Most desired the quintessential log cabin design.

Joe Webb was a designer and builder native to the Highlands, NC, area at the time. During the 1930s and 1940s, he was commissioned to build several log cabins. Using few tools other than his hands, he crafted each home meticulously, one log at a time. Mr. Webb would take his time with each home, never rushing, giving each piece of wood the time he felt it needed to adapt to its new form. What seemed simple and basic, would come to stand as his trademark.

Today, nearly all of Joe Webb’s signature log cabins are still standing in the Highlands area. Many have been added to the National Register of Historic Buildings, while others are in line to be listed. Most of these remarkable structures are generational family jewels, but a select few have become local businesses including that which is known as the Highland Hiker cabin.

Highland Hiker Branches Out with 4 Distinct Locations


Following the re-branding and move into the Joe Webb log cabin in Highlands, NC, the store began to expand. In 1995, an additional Cashiers, NC, store opened at the crossroads. This high-visibility location, along with a wide variety of supreme goods, has led to the success and staying power of this outdoor gear shop. In 2004, a shoe-specific boutique opened in the Falls on Main shopping center. With footwear, both functional and stylish, being a priority in the outdoors as well as about town, it made sense to expand the brand’s offerings. Finally, in 2011, additional space was secured next to the shoe store, bringing the tally to an impressive three shops in Highlands.

Mountain Chic = Brands, Brands, Brands!


With the evolution of outdoor gear including clothing, footwear, headwear, and outerwear has come the birth of the fashion style known as “mountain chic.” Highland Hiker has not only embraced this concept, but in fact, has become the go-to and leader offering international brands in every facet of outfitting. The owners have traveled far and wide across the world in search of unique, reputable and quality products. Shoe brands include Dubarry of Ireland, Frye boots, Hunter boots, KEEN, LOWA, MEPHISTO, Naot and New Balance, just to name a few. Clothing and outdoor gear brands available are J Barbour and Sons, Columbia Sportswear, Dubarry of Ireland, Mountain Khakis, The North Face, Patagonia and Pendleton. Obviously, this isn’t your mother’s hiking store, unless your mother is beyond mountain chic!

Highland Hiker Day Hikes and Fly Fishing


Arguably, one of the most popular reasons to visit or live in the area is to take advantage of all that the outdoors offers. Majestic mountain ranges with everlasting views, give way to crystal clear rivers, streams and waterfalls. Located in the Nantahala National Forest, Highlands is renowned for its hiking and fly fishing opportunities. Highland Hiker has the best guides offering Highlands area hiking and fly fishing excursions. These seasoned professionals not only know the terrain inside and out, but also the secret spots known only to locals. Stop by the shop and they’ll get you outfitted into your gear before you head out for a once in a lifetime experience. In no time, you’ll feel like a local and at ease in the surrounding forests.

If you’re already a seasoned hiker looking to master Highlands area hiking and camping, you’ll want to grab a copy of The Guide to Day Hikes, a locally produced book available for sale only at Highland Hiker. It was researched and written by native experts who have done the work for you by simplifying and describing the details of every trail in the area. The book is a must-have for locals, hiking enthusiasts and is a great gift for anyone interested in learning the ways of the Nantahala National Forest.

A Family Tradition for All

Needless to say, the Wilkes family has found their niche in these two gorgeous mountain towns and has grown with them. And as families pass traditions down, so have they. Upon their retirement, David and Carol Wilkes passed the stores down to their son, Chris, and his wife, Hilary. Chris and Hilary have done an amazing job of maintaining the original appeal of the Happy Hiker, and also brought the store into the digital world of social media and communications. Cleverly hashtagging the phrase #imahighlandhiker has become their calling card, garnering fans across the globe.

As you’ll see upon your first, second or 10th visit, this is a business run by a family whose first concern is taking care of yours. Like many locals, the Wilkes take pride in our beautiful community and strive to add to it with a little flair, when desired. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoors enthusiast seeking adventure and bounty from the great wild nature or perhaps you just want a little stylish fur on your winter vest, Highland Hiker has you covered. Stop in to visit one of their four stores in Cashiers or Highlands and you will be delighted.

Landmark Realty Group Real Estate in Cashiers and Highlands, NC

For those of you craving this life, whether it’s mountain chic style, hiking or fly fishing excursions, or perhaps a Joe Webb cabin for yourself, look no further than Landmark Realty Group. We understand the allure of mountain living. That’s why we live here! We are passionate about and active in this community. While you’re getting fitted for your next adventure at Highland Hiker, let us find the perfect fit for your dream mountain home!

Posted by Landmark Concierge on


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